Meet Smartipresence, an affordable cardboard telepresence robot

Self-driving wheeled robots with a tablet-like screen, and internet connection that let people be in two places at once has been around for a long time. They enable doctors, remote workers, and students to feel more connected to their colleagues by giving them a physical presence where they can’t be in person. But these robots, while useful, can also be very expensive.

Also, it’s very bad that we can’t see our loved ones in the current situation because of the COVID-19 pandemic. So to help improve the situation, the company Crafty Robot has introduced a robot called “Smartipresence,” a cardboard telepresence robot. It is like a robot body for your phone, allowing video callers to move around your in space. Whether you are speaking with a loved one or a colleague, they now have the ability to move around for themselves.

The “Smartipresence” project is installed on an application-driven cardboard robotic platform that uses rubber bands and screws for simple yet robust construction. The robot is an expansion pack for the already successful Smartibot kit – reusing the circuit board, motors, and battery box you are able to then add in new cardboard parts and a new low-ratio motor for working the phone tilt.

Mini cardboard telepresence robot allowing video callers to move around your in space.
Mini cardboard telepresence robot allowing video callers to move around your in space.

After assembling the cardboard, just slot in your smartphone on a small battery-powered robot, decide who you want to invite over, and enjoy your video calls.

You can register online (using the app on iOS or web app on Android) at the Smartipresence service. Users can send a link to their friends and loved ones for a special driving web app. They can see what the robot sees and drive it around from in the browser on their Smartphone, Tablet, or computer. As soon as they start driving, their face will appear on the robot’s screen, and you will be able to chat amongst yourselves.

While making a video call, the recipient can take control of the robot’s movements. He/she can move forwards and backward, turn and look up and down or spin around for a little dance. Driving Smartipresence feels a lot like being present but only being 6 inches tall. The device can be used for 10 hours.

The designers have also created a 340mm (13″) tall dedicated telepresence robot you can 3D print yourself in case your guests are feeling too short in the cardboard bot that comes in the kit.

The telepresence robot kit is currently available on Kickstarter with pledges starting from $62. The kit contains everything needed to create your own telepresence robot. If planning goes well, sales of this product will begin in October.

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